Disclaimer: College students do not own Doctor Who.
AN: For those of you who are reading Wee Small Hours, this and the other four one shots have to be pushed out of my head first, sorry. Please review
It was one of the few nights that the Doctor spent alone. Torchwood 3 had obtained a "glorious victory" and therefore Jack, Martha, and Donna were going out for a celebration of sorts. The kind of celebration where the Doctor would hide in the library while the girls ran around asking each other's opinions on the sparkly scraps of cloth they called outfits. Jack, who knew of the Doctor's secluded lair, walked up to him, smirking.
"Sure you don't wanna come with?"
"Trust me. I'll be fine right here."
"You used to say something of that sort whenever Rose and I would go clubbing. But you would always show up in some corner, watching us and glowering at anyone who so much as looked at Rose. You scared away half of my prospects too, I'll have you know." Jack continued to grinningly heckle the Doctor.
"They're not Rose." The Doctor stated flatly. A female voice called out for Jack. "You better get back to them before they start hunting you down. I wouldn't want you to miss out on all the fun."
Jack nodded, glancing around the well appointed little alcove. He was fairly certain that you could only find it if you already knew where it was or if the TARDIS wanted you to. Jack had been introduced to it by Rose who had discovered it within an hour of returning to the TARDIS after losing her first friend to the universe. On Platform One she had seen the death of those who were innocent, but then she had bonded with Gwyneth only to lose her. She had found the Doctor sitting so nonchalantly that it was obviously a ruse. He was, in fact, pretending to not cower. This first loss, the first time Rose must be introduced to the fact that the universe was not fair, was one he had hoped to put off as long as possible. He wanted, much more than he cared to admit, for her to be hooked, completely, on all that was brilliant, before showing her the ugliness that tainted almost all of it. But he had mislanded, and her eyes had been pried open. The Doctor was certain that Rose would demand to be taken home, and so he hid. The TARDIS had been either unamused by his tactics or had known Rose wanted nothing less than to leave, and so had allowed the girl to find him.
After that, Rose respected that this was his place to think, but she would come to him if she needed him. Or if Jack needed him, while his mind struggled with the scars of two years of missing memories. The Doctor hadn't been able to restore them, but he had helped Jack's mind to learn to cope with the absent data. The Doctor had been known to hide in here from everything he didn't want to deal with, burying himself in ways of improving the TARDIS or finding the question that resulted in the answer forty-two (so far, even he couldn't come up with a better query than "what is six times seven?"). He had wrestled in this room with topics as monumental as his love for and loss of Rose, and as trivial as tonight's escape from his companion's frivolities.
It was Jack's first time being back in this room since Satellite Five, and before he retreated towards the summoning feminine voices, he noticed a single framed picture tucked into a previously nonexistent empty space in the wall of books. Jack was willing to bet that if he wandered throughout that room, he would always be able to see it. He smiled softly at the image of Rose, beaming out at them in triumph, sporting a gorgeously elaborate kimono which had somehow managed to keep from being mussed despite the fact that she had just struggled with Jack for his katana.
"First woman samurai, that's me." She had smirked at them. The group had just exited the TARDIS for the streets of Kyoto, after dropping Margaret the Egg off at the Hatchery of Raxacoricofallapatorius. The Doctor, the old him, had laughed uproariously at Jack's fit of pique over being disarmed. Jack didn't know how the Doctor had gotten this picture, but there was no mistaking the moment. He gave the image of that girl who had been his best friend a quiet nod, and retreated from the hidden alcove, rejoining the girls and leaving the Doctor to his solitude.
After another half hour, the exuberant shouts ceased reverberating through the halls of the TARDIS, and the Doctor sighed in relief, happy for the peace. He was able to pleasantly wile away nearly an hour testing the coefficients of his latest equation, until confident that he had properly determined the exact value, down to the hundred sextillionths place. For the next thirty minutes he reread Dante's Divine Comedy, following with pleasure the imagined exploration of the world beyond. He bounced from passage to passage, reexamining his favorite bits. He finally landed on the place where Dante first saw the gates leading into hell.
"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" he read softly. He was so accustomed to having humans with him, clamoring for information and explanation, (something which made him pause to think, something that kept him from making fatal mistakes) that he instantly translated aloud. "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Instantaneously, the words sent out electrical signals to different parts of the brain: emotion and memory.
Queen Victoria had told him that the real point of ghost stories was the hope of a message from the world beyond. Dante told him to abandon all hope. The Doctor had already been through hell. Several times. He had the residual radiation to prove it. The Void would always call to him whenever he found an entrance to it. The Eternals called it the Howling. His people called it the Void. But it was also known as Hell.
At the time, the Doctor had dismissed that thought. He knew there could be no message, not for him. And, to be honest, he hadn't wanted one. Everyone that could have a message for him could only have bad things to say, could only berate him. He couldn't forgive himself, so how could they? He wasn't sure he could bear to hear their accusations, so he had never sought a message from voices long gone.
He longed for hers, though. To hear Rose's voice, he would do far more than burn up a sun. It didn't matter if all she did was rail at him; he would accept her anger with complete contentment. To hear her shrieks of fury or of laughter echo through these empty rooms, rather than the hollow memories, would soothe him instantly, he knew.
Rose's picture smiled down at him, silent as always. The Queen had been right. The point of almost everything he did was not the terror, but the hope. The Queen's husband had sent her a message, had protected her one more time. Why could the Doctor find no such solace?
He had no hope of a message. No hope of ever seeing her again. No hope that the memories would ever end. No hope of ever stopping loving her.